Being a woman in the tech industry, you’ll quickly notice how much you stand out. Even recent stats from 2020 show that only about 20% of the tech workforce comprises of women.
That doesn’t mean that there haven’t been successful women in tech. There are tons of them, yet those of the men often overshadow their stories.
If you play any tech role, you could flip the narrative, letting your uniqueness and rarity be an asset rather than a hindrance.
If you want to learn how to succeed as a woman in tech, your best tips will come from the women who did just that – who made being a woman in tech their superpower. They’ve blazed a trail for the rest of us, and it’s time to take note if you want to progress the role of women in tech and continue smashing glass ceilings.
The Challenge of Being a Woman in Technology
Women working in technology know that several barriers can prevent them from reaching their full potential. However, any woman who is truly driven to succeed in this industry can do so with a little help and the right strategies.
Still, it’s helpful first to address the challenges women and tech must overcome so that we can find ways around them.
Tech Bro Domination
The industry is inundated with the “tech bro” stereotype, which has come to describe many of the newly-minted millionaires (and even billionaires) that launch successful tech companies.
They outnumber women, with 72% of women reporting being outnumbered in business meetings by a 2:1 ratio. This discrepancy does not properly illustrate the long history of women’s achievements in the computer science industry and breeds insecurity among many women in the industry today.
Gatekeeping of the Tech Industry
Because so many men work in tech, most gatekeepers are likely to be male, which can prove challenging to women trying to get their foot in the door or move up in the industry.
Family and Career
Women in tech also face the ongoing challenges of childcare and caring for their family, a responsibility that is equally shared with fathers but often falls to the mothers.
Because many women prioritize their family while children are young, they usually have a resume that reflects underemployment or makes them more susceptible to pay disparities.
How to Succeed as a Woman in Tech: 20 Tips
Being a woman in technology has its challenges, but it makes the successes that much sweeter. Women and technology will change the world if the women leaders of the computer science industry take these tips to heart and continue climbing the corporate ladders.
1. Be the First
Don’t be afraid to be the first to do something. As the quote by Laurel Ulrich goes, “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” Being first is often one of the best ways to make a name for yourself.
Ada Lovelace, for example, was the first computer programmer. She was not the first woman programmer but the first programmer altogether. Some likely people discouraged her from being first, but she persisted.
2. Take Risks
How do you act in the face of fear? Do you take risks or stick with what’s comfortable? Taking risks is much like being the first to do something in that it can be terrifying. But opportunities with the most significant risk also come with the greatest reward, so take it.
The CEO and founder of Media Frenzy Global, Sarah Tourville, has used the overwhelming presence of men in the industry as her motivation to take risks.
3. Reframe Rejection as Redirection
Rejection and negative feedback aren’t bad things. It’s redirection, guiding you to a new path, or helping you improve. Don’t let criticism derail you from what you’re working on and working toward.
An Intel exec, Lisa Pearce, has credited her ability to take rejection as a powerful tool that has allowed her to grow. As women, it can be harder not to take things like this personally, but Pearce says it is critical to view this feedback as a gift rather than an insult.
4. Make Connections
Make as many good connections as you can in the industry. Networking events exist for a reason!
Knowing the right people can take you far, especially in an industry like tech, where everybody seems to be just a few degrees of separation away from everyone else. You may meet your next new boss, an investor, an employee, or even a mentor this way.
5. Find a Mentor
You don’t have to do everything on your own. Most successful women in tech don’t. They find people who uplift, support and guide them through the valleys and the peaks.
One example of the power of mentorship comes from Amruta Karmarkar, the Director of Engineering at tech firm Better, who credits her mentors for providing her with insight so pivotal to her success. Her advice? Seek out leaders you respect.
6. Seek Out Opportunities to Lead
The best opportunities will not be ones that are handed to you. They will be the ones that you seek out and conquer. Sometimes, they’ll be easier to find. Others may require more grind and hard work to seek out. However, they are there, and they are yours for the taking.
This opportunity may be heading a new project, taking on some additional responsibilities, or leading the team in a new initiative. Volunteer and ask, always. The worst they can say is no.
7. Communicate Clearly
Speaking up is essential, but speaking clearly is not to be forgotten as well. Especially when you’re pitching a new idea to someone that matters, having strong public and interpersonal communication skills will serve you well, says Devon Westerholm, a VP at Palo Alto Networks.
Contributing your ideas but also articulating your thoughts is crucial.
8. Break Your Inner Glass Ceiling
You may not realize it, but growing up as a woman in this world often conditions us to think in a certain way and accept certain assumptions about ourselves and how the world works without really questioning it.
These limitations may be holding you back in significant ways, so it’s imperative for women in tech to break their inner glass ceiling and conquer whatever limiting beliefs are holding them back.
9. Upskill, Always
Just when you think you’ve collected all the skills you need to be successful, upskill again. To succeed in the rapidly-evolving tech industry, you need to educate yourself on the latest and greatest tech advancements constantly.
Learn how to code, become a VR expert, or study AI to help develop innovations. Companies love to see this kind of initiative, and often, they’ll pay for training, conferences, and other continuing education programs.
10. Find Confidence Within Yourself
Self-doubt has a way of creeping in, especially when surrounded by a sea of male colleagues. Don’t let imposter syndrome get the best of you, and remind yourself of your skills, experience, and ideas that allow you to stand out and shine.
One woman who went from intern to full-time employee at aerospace tech firm Northrop Grumman relied on these facts - her skills, accomplishments, and smarts - to keep her afloat even when she was the only woman in the room.
11. Prioritize Balance In Your Life
As a woman in tech, it’s critical to prioritize balance between work and home. If you put too much of your energy into your work and neglect your other self, you’ll get burned out quickly. As ambitious as you may be, don’t forget to take time for yourself and prioritize your well-being.
Ariana Huffington, co-founder of the digital news blog Huffington Post is the perfect example of prioritizing wellbeing.
Feeling burnt out in her previous work environment, Huffington started a new company, Thrive Global, that aggregates stories about work-life balance, health and wellness, and avoiding burnout.
12. Tackle Challenges Head-On
Don’t shy away from challenges. One great way to make a name for yourself and be seen by those who matter is to step up when things go wrong and help find a solution.
You’ll show drive, ingenuity, and dedication to the cause, which will help solidify your reputation as a reliable and impressive worker.
13. Do What You Love
Find what fuels you professionally, and make that your career. For many women in tech, what they love the most is the impact their role will have on future generations and the young girls in school today who hope to work on computers and change the face of tech.
If it’s not filling your cup, don’t let it keep fueling your bank account. What you do should align with your passion, and if it doesn’t, you may struggle to hang on when the going gets tough.
14. Be Your Own Advocate
You’ll need to speak up and advocate for yourself if you want to be heard. Don’t expect anyone else to do it for you, especially when there are so many other voices in the room, many of which may be louder or deeper than yours.
Remember that you’ve earned a place in that meeting, at that table, or in that room, and speak from it.
Gaps’ VP of Engineering Sharmalee Bala admits she even has to remind herself of this from time to time, but it has helped her make a name for herself.
15. Champion Other Women
Collaborating with and championing other women is crucial to women’s growth in tech. Women can do a lot independently, but they can do even more together. This means supporting other women in their successes and working together to create mutual successes.
Shivana Sahi, a systems engineer at Samsung, attributes much of her growth to her collaboration with other women.
16. Find Your Motivation
If you’re working for the paycheck, the glory, or the possibility of fame, you’re doing it wrong. It’s crucial to find work that is meaningful to you and motivates you to get up day after day and put in work. You should be all-in on your company’s mission. If you’re not, find a new company with a mission you can get behind.
It’s not worth it if it’s not worthwhile. One example comes from Alissa Cooper Stein, a software developer at Audible that was led to this company because of her deep love of books and democratizing literature for all.
17. Be All In
Don’t be halfway into anything in tech. If you’re not bought into the idea, the product or service, and the mission, your work will reflect that. Make sure you’re there for the right reasons, and when you’re at work, give it your all to show your bosses what you’re truly capable of.
18. Be Patient
Patience is a virtue, and the technology industry is no exception. It takes time to accomplish your goals, and those in it for the long haul will see that being patient truly pays off.
At times, it may get discouraging if things aren’t going your way or you feel like you’ve plateaued, but eventually, if you work hard and stay committed, you’ll achieve your dreams. Just take it from Prachi Sahoo, BlackLine’s Director of Product Management. Sahoo worked for years in much less senior roles, putting in long hours year after year before she finally got her big break.
19. Never Stop Learning
Staying curious is to your advantage. You should never assume you know everything and always assume there’s something new to learn. This curiosity may even take you into new roles or departments, and it will help add new skills and experiences to your resume.
A 20-year Siemens veteran recommends taking different roles to see where you fit the best, taking advantage of all the training and development along the way.
20. Find a Support System
In addition to mentors that you can look up to, you should also have a support system of peers and colleges cheering you on to help you through the challenges and celebrate you during the successes.
Alexandra Hjert, a software data engineer at Squarespace, says that having a community can change the whole journey. There’s already a lack of female representation, so it’s essential to be there for one another.
Final Points on Successful Women in Tech
Being a woman in tech can feel like an uphill climb, but there’s some peace in at least knowing you’re not alone. While women in tech may be outnumbered, they are sharp-witted, motivated, and have dreams of reshaping the industry to become more inclusive.
If you’re ready to get started with organizing your hackathon, contact us. Our team is ready to help you!